A Brief Update
For those of you who are unable to gather corporately with us this Sunday, you are loved and missed! If this is you, we are providing the songs we are singing together this afternoon and a devotional based on the sermon being preached.
Songs We are Singing Together
Devotional on Psalm 125
There is a certain moment in our lives that causes us to stop all our activities and reconsider what our lives mean. Death is that moment, particularly when someone we know dies. Death draws our attention away from the busyness of our lives to what and who is most important. As Christians, death should make us look more intently at the Lord.
By fixing our eyes on Jesus we filter out all the noise of life and death and are reminded to once again consider what is most important and real. The daily pressures we face are real. The family challenges we face are real. The crazy world we live in is real, but then above all of that stands Jesus who rules over every circumstance and assures us that he is working good in all our lives, even when sadness rushes in.
He is why we are here today. Death is real, but its presence does not rise above the Lord. The pain of death does not shake his kingdom or shake us who live in that kingdom. We are not ignoring life’s difficulties or ignoring death, but we are looking past those things to the life we have in Christ, and we do that when we sing, when we read his word, when we listen to his word preached, and when we fellowship with each other.
Whether we are faced with a pandemic, an out of control government, the pain and suffering of illness, or the death of a loved one, our first impulse must be to “seek first the kingdom of God” and look to Jesus for assurance and peace when so many other things seek to derail us.
The author of Psalm 125 understood the importance of having this impulse of trusting the Lord in order to not be shaken regardless of his circumstances. It reminds us that no matter what we face or experience in our lives if we trust the Lord, we will be forever secure in him.
[Read Psalm 125:1-2]
This psalm is a song of ascent. Each year the people of God would undertake a pilgrimage from their villages to Jerusalem, up to Mount Zion to the temple of the Lord to celebrate and honor the Lord. Mt Zion was the very place where he dwelled with his people. It was on a mountain high and secure, a place that could not be moved. Coming to Mount Zion was a special time to remember God’s goodness, the very same thing we endeavor to do each Sunday when we gather.
In ancient times the journey to and from Jerusalem was dangerous. The travelers had to contend with the heat of a scorching sun by the day, the cold at night, and walk along rocky, narrow mountain paths where they might encounter wild animals or thieves. It was a journey filled with much vulnerability and insecurity.
And yet even with all the uncertainties these worshippers faced, the psalmist still instructs them to look beyond their challenges to God, because if they do (and if we do) they can rest secure knowing they are firmly anchored like Mt. Zion which abides forever.
The psalmist (who is one of the travelers) is not putting his trust in Mount Zion but the one who created Mt. Zion. He is putting his trust in the Lord who is the unchanging, immovable, and unshakeable foundation that abides forever. The psalmist’s point is simply this; trust in the Lord because He abides forever.
He is telling us that our first impulse must be to always look the Lord first, and not our troubles because if we don’t we will never be secure. If we look to him first, we won’t be rattled, anxious, fearful, or undone by all the turmoil and uncertainty around us because we will be like Mt. Zion, the immovable place where God dwells.
The world this author lives in is in many ways very different than the world we live in now, and yet because of the effects of sin there are similarities that are just as daunting today that can shake us. Suffering, sickness, pain, conflict, and death touch us all no matter what century we live in. Death touches us all.
But even in death our hope remains secure in the one who has secured us to himself, Jesus Christ our resurrected savior. Our lives are hidden with Christ in God, and what anchors us to God in our troubled and often sad world is Jesus who promised to never leave us nor forsake us, and who said he will always be with us even to the end of the age. Like Mt. Zion which still stands today, so does God’s promise of his abiding presence in our lives.
In Psalm 125:2, the psalmist’s encouragement keeps going as he expands on his mountain analogy: “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore.” Here is a promise of God’s eternal guardianship over our lives. He stands watch over us and surrounds us like an army. Just like Mt Zion is surrounded by other mountains that provided protection from Israel’s enemies the psalmist knows God is always surrounding him forever.
Trouble often comes to us unannounced like the hidden dangers on the road to Mount Zion. There are no warnings. We don’t normally receive a message saying, “get ready, trouble is coming tomorrow.” Trouble shows up unexpectedly and can catch us off guard, and yet God is never caught off guard.
There is no promise in the scriptures of a pain free or carefree life, but there is the promise of a cared for life. And when troubles come by God’s hidden and dark providence we will not be shaken because our first impulse will be to look to him. When we do, we will not come undone because “like Mount Zion” we will be immovable, confident that the Lord is guarding us.
Death regularly reminds us of how fragile we are, but it should also remind us of where our hope truly lives. Our hope is not in anything this world has to offer. It’s not in our health, our finances, or our possessions, but in Christ alone.
Not only does the Lord surround us to protect us, he also surrounds us to comfort us. In our grief God draws us near to himself wrapping us in his arms, and comforting us when we weep, and when we suffer. He draws close to us as we seek to draw near to him. No matter what we face or experience in our lives we can trust the Lord because we are forever secure in him.
The writer closes his psalm with an important benediction: “Peace be upon Israel.” This is rich in meaning because at the end of each festival on Mount Zion, prior to going home and facing the same dangers encountered on their initial journey, the high priest would speak this benediction over the people.
This is very much the benediction that Jesus gave to his disciples prior to his leaving in John 14:27 – “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives to, I give to you.” Those who look to the Lord and trust in him are given a peace that is divine, supernatural, and unattainable by the world.
Trust and peace are the bookends of this psalm. They are also the bookends of the gospel. Trust in Jesus Christ and you will never be moved. Trust in his saving grace offered to you through his suffering, death, and resurrection and your eternity is secure. You will abide with the Lord forever. With Christ’s saving grace comes peace—peace with God the Father, peace with one another, and peace to run this race and finish this race even when suffering and death stand before us.
Song of Response
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